Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant.
Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.
©2006 Sara Gruen; (P)2006 HighBridge Company
"Water for Elephants resembles stealth hits like The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, or The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.” (New York Times Book Review)
"Just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief." (Booklist)
"Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes, and freaks who populate her book." (Publishers Weekly)
Author and narrator both did a great job. I loved the character in both his youth and as a crotchety old man.
I was a huge fan of the TV Show "Carnivale" and that is the feeling I got from this (sans the supernatural). The characters were engaging and the narrators were cast perfectly.
I never would have downloaded this book if it hadn't been #1 for 2006. Thanks to Audible to pointing this one out to me!
I just finished it, and I may listen to it again before moving to a new book.
The narration of "Water for Elephants" is truly one of the best I have heard! Both narrators are outstanding, adding so much depth to each "side" of the main character. This is a wonderful book on its own, but I am so glad I listened to it rather than reading the paper copy. The performers really added to my enjoyment of the story.
This book is a good one to listen to if you aren't looking for anything too challenging. It's not a heavy book- the story follows a pretty predictable trajectory. It's a love story. I am not saying this is a bad thing- sometimes it is exactly what I want to hear. The narrators were easy on the ears and added a lot to the characters without over-acting (although the narrator's female voices were a bit silly). Historic elements were well-researched which added a bit of richness (if you liked Stewart O'Nan's "circus fire", this is a good fictional companion to it). I would put this book on the "entertaining-story-to-listen-to-while-doing-something-slightly-banal-but-requiring-a-degree-of-mental-activity" shelf. Not quite enough meat for "road-trip-through-desert-country", more suitable for "re-apholstering-the-sofa" or "knitting-something-only-slightly-more-complicated-than-mittens"sections of the library.
The 25-Hour Mom
This book came together in so many ways. The narrators were excellent. It didn't bother me that the book went back and forth between the two time periods. It was well done. I hope my mind is as sharp at 90 (or 93).
Some books you never want to end, some you can't finish, and some don't end ... they just stop. This one could not have had a more perfect ending ... and I never saw it coming. It was a wonderful surprise.
This was the best listen I've had all year.
I enjoyed this audio for the wonderful juxtaposition of the two Jacobs plus the wild circus story. A couple of times I thought the Marlena story was a bit unbelievable. But other than that the cast of supporting characters, Kinko, Camel and the like were unforgettable.
Amazing book. Very well written. Very well read.
I could not wait to get back into my car to hear more. I was sorry when it was over. Must read.
"Worth every penny!"
Like all the previous reviews there is nothing I did not like about this title. The narration was fabulous and I loved the story, even doing my daughters washing up turn so that I could listen to it! I found myself totally lost in the story and characters and I agree that if you love 'The Help' you will love this too.Highly recommended.
I found this story absolutely enthralling. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good listen.
The older character was particularly astute and his comments on growing old, loss of dignity and focus on life are particularly moving.
"Brilliant story - v. well read - like being there!"
I bought this off the back of initial reviewer's description and was not once disappointed. An amazing story and very clever/slick switching between main character when he was a young man in the circus and when he was an old man in a retirement home, and back and forth throughout. A very clever prologue (which you only realise fully later) - it grips you from the start. I found myself wanting to keep getting back to the book to see what happened next, so never a dull moment. The reading of this book was excellent, almost like you were there with the characters, and every emotion was instantly shared. I highly recommend this book, even if the initial subject puts you off - I wasn't sure before I started but I am now very glad I took the plunge. 5 stars well deserved!
"A Journey with the circus"
An Amazing journey across America by train with the circus. I felt I was there sharing the excitement, adventures, but tough life they led. The main character is now in his nineties and it tells also of his life in a nursing home and how he is coping with old age. Wonderful journey narrated so well.
"Best book read in 2008"
This turned out to be one of my favourite books for 2008. This story flowed so well and you get a real view of what life was like not only in a circus but what it was like to have a job in the depression.
The story was brilliantly written with the narator not only living in the present but his memories of his earlier life. As a Care Assistant myself I related to how he felt in his nursing home and having his independance taken away from him bit by bit.
This is a really wonderful story - beautifully written and read. I know I'll come back to this one again and again, it's a real gem.
"A great story told by a great story teller"
It's not a great work of literature but it is a damn good story. This is one of the few books I've listened to where the narrator has really made the book come to life. Cliched or classic, you decide. The ending is not what you think, but in hindsight you wonder how could it be any different. Enjoy!
This was an excellent listen. Very enjoyable, not bored at all. Would recommend to just about everyone.
I really did not want this book to end. I savoured every moment. It oozed images, smells and noise as it journeyed with the circus and the compelling characters. It's going to be difficult to find another book to rival it.
This is a book you must listen to. Absolutely stunning piece of work. Never in a book have I felt so much as though I was there, the smells, the noises. Perfection.
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